It's Twins: Two Boys, or Two Girls, or a Boy and a Girl (I have no idea!)
I arrived at 7:30 this morning to find one hatchling and one egg. I'm guessing this little guy is about 15 hours old.
Hummingbirds hatch with their eyes closed, weighing about 1/3 of a dime.
Mama spent the day incubating the remaining egg, now she has a little one to feed.
Each time she left the nest I checked on the egg. By mid-day Mama was very used to me being there. The winds kicked up, the nest went for quite a ride. A branch got stuck with its leaves confining Mama on the nest. I moved the branch, Mama never flinched, she didn't fly off when I got that close. That really surprised and pleased me.
Mama has more freedom now to come and go, but never gone for long, she has to keep the newborn warm.
Then, around 2pm... The second egg started to go!
In a few days they will double in size, their beaks will darken, and they will be covered in little fuzzy pinfeathers, regulating their own body heat after 9-10 days.
Back with some fresh fluff. Meticulous Mama keeping the nest up to code.
Occasionally a male hummingbird would come too close and Mama would get aggressive. The male's brightly colored feathers are considered a threat that will attract predators. Go get 'em!
Feeding time again... The babies, unable to see, feel the wind from Mom's wings and know it's time to eat.
I've never seen a hummer's tongue like that, quite interesting!
What a busy day. Now a little hummer time out.
2.25.2013 1 day old
My guess is that the two chicks were born a day apart, the first one late afternoon on the 23rd, the second one hatched on my watch around 2:30 on the 24th. Look at the size difference, one is about 50% larger than the other. Their infant hairs are filling in.
Egg shells on the head, too cute.
Speaking of egg shells... Mama is doing a little house cleaning, throwing out some of the debris.
A quick pit stop. She would sit for awhile, her eye lids would get heavy, but then she would hear something and perk up. Always on duty.
I had to climb a small tree to get a high enough angle to shoot her feeding the chicks. Once in the tree, I had to stand to get the camera even higher up. Not very comfortable (and a bit too precarious) but worth it to get the shots.
You can see Mama's beak through the chick's throat skin. Amazing how she gets her beak so far down into this tiny creature.
She has a bug on her beak. I didn't know the babies can eat solid food so soon. Hummingbirds get their protein from bugs. Mama eats a mixture of bugs and nectar, then regurgitates the slurry for feeding.
Then he put his rear end up and...
Hummingbirds are toilet trained at birth, doing everything they can to dispose of waste over the side of the nest.
2.26.2013 2 days old
Had to change my set up yesterday. About 4 feet up a tree, holding myself up there with my left leg, while putting all my weight on my right foot, which is on a small tree (feels like the rung of a ladder), while trying to find a stable place for the monopod. Not comfortable, but worth it to get a better angle on shooting the nest.
Up and down the tree several times to get the flash set up (using low power, I am respectful of their environment). Then I stay in the tree while she is on the nest, constantly watching through the lens. When Mom leaves I climb down and grab the little mirrorless camera for the close-up nest shots. Then back up the tree to get Mom returning and hopefully feeding.
Okay, we're talking centimeters here! The younger chick is only 1/2 centimeter wide, the older one is about 3/4 Cm wide. The diameter of the outside of the nest is 1.5 inches, inside diameter is about an inch.
Look at the younger chick's little wing and leg. So very tiny!
"Hurry Up Mom!"
The chicks know when Mom is coming.
Getting ready to feed...
"Mom, what are you waiting for?"
Mama is filling up the chick with a mixture of bugs and nectar. You can see the little one's tongue.
All the way down!
Here you can see a bug in the baby's mouth.
Mama just finished feeding, those are bug wings on her beak.
2.28.2013 5 days old
At 4 and 5 days old they almost fill up the bottom of the nest.
They have gotten darker. Looks like their eyes might be opening soon.
The chicks were napping when I checked on them this afternoon, although never too tired to eat...
3.3.2013 8 days old
Look at the size difference after only 3 day's growth! They can't lay in the nest without turning their head.
They slept the entire three hours I was there, other than five feedings. Mama was gone from the nest for most of my visit.
I spent a lot of time in the tree "at the ready" waiting for Mama to return. I didn't know I needed to prep my monkey muscles before I started this project!
Their pinfeathers have started to grow, poking through the skin one by one.
I brought Mama a meal to show my appreciation, trying to make up for my intrusions.
She knew immediately what it was. This nest is in an area where there are no feeders nearby, I didn't think she would know it was a dinner delivery. Maybe she used to be a city hummer and moved to the country to raise her kids.
They consume more than their own weight in nectar every day. They store just enough energy to survive overnight by going into a hibernation-like state called "torpor". Their metabolic rate slows to 1/15th of normal. As the day warms, their body temperature rises and they resume their normal activity. Here is a video of a hummingbird who overslept: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNOKW8NkAVM
Drink up Mama!
You can see Mom feeding them ants. Hummers use their tongue like a needle in a sewing machine to get the bugs down into the chick.
And healthy growth means healthy...
Whoohoo what a shot! Both for the chick and for me :-)
3.5.2013 10 days old
Their eyes are opening, their pinfeathers are sprouting, still sleeping continuously.
Look how big they are getting.
Down the hatch.
And once again...
3.7.2013 12 days old
We're having some rain, started last night. Made a quick stop this morning, in between the precipitation, to check on the chick's last 48 hours of development. I knew to wear my rubber boots!
This area is usually dry, or at most, a little squishy.
Water... everywhere I step...
Look... Their feathers now reflect color!
They are definitely close nest mates.
After feeding she flew directly at me, letting me know my time there was done. I thanked her and quickly went on my way.
3.9.2013 14 days old
They have awareness now. As I walked up to the nest he opened his eye obviously aware of me.
Most of the time I've been here, I could hear another female hummer busy at work behind me. I never paid much attention to her. In fact, I haven't heard her recently. Well...
Mama has a neighbor. The reason "Mama 2" has been quiet lately is because she started incubating (you can see her beak). This nest is about 20 feet downstream, and at least 20 feet up, near the top of a tree. I didn't know they nest so high. This nest has zero shelter from the rain! Makes me wonder if Mama 2 is not as experienced. Maybe she is one of Mama's chicks from last year?
They grab them out of the air.
"Not on the face, Mom!"
Just like all babies at this age all they do is eat, sleep and...
Watch for the surprise ending...
I think this one got me...
Nope! Saved by a leaf. I can't believe it actually hit a leaf and not my clothes.
3.12.2013 17 days old
They are becoming little birds.
Wing feathers progressing nicely.
Landing gear... check!
Doin' the hummer dance.
A beak full O' bugs.
Off to go hunting...
"Look Mama! There... right behind you!"
I wasn't so lucky today. Also got it on my shirt pocket and camera strap.
They sat still or slept most of the time, except for this active moment. This is the week they will start to investigate their world in preparation for the big fledge.
3.14.2013 19 days old
The nest has expanded over a half inch. That spider webbing is good stuff!
They are still sedentary, just sleeping, sitting, eating, and, you know...
Today I had lots of "firsts"... The first time I saw them flap their wings, scratch their face, groom their feathers, and change positions.
The first wing stretch and feather flapping.
Feathers are still individually wrapped.
Working on each feather to unwrap it.
The first face scratch.
"Ahhhh... that feels good!"
Another first for today, the chicks not wanting all that Mom has to offer. I watched them close off to Mama's beak.
"No more Mom, I'm full."
Then she would tap them on the head telling them she had more to feed, but they ignored her.
The 24 hour age difference between the two chicks is still apparent in their actions. The younger one has just about caught up in size, he sure looks up to his older brother. Every "first" the older chick tried, the younger one immediately copied him.
"Not during dinner!"
3.15.2013 20 days old
Their appearance has progressed, feathers have filled in. They look like complete hummingbirds!
With intense interest he watched something fly overhead. So cool to see the chick notice something up so high, how intently he watched it travel from one side to the other. I thought he was going to fly right out of the nest after it. It's a grooming thing...
Mama won't be able to land on the edge of the nest for much longer.
Mama landing on the end of the chick's wing.
Business as usual.
"I'm gonna miss you bro!"
3.17.2013 22 days old
Their feathers have matured enough now to declare both chicks as males. You can see their gorget feathers forming. The red throat coloring will appear in a few months.
Mama has to feed from the branch now, no room in the inn.
Documenting by iPhone too...
Yes, they let us get this close. She tried to feed on the fly...
Nope, changed her mind, the chicks were full.
3.18.2013 23 days old
Today was a big day. I arrived to find one chick sitting on the rim of the nest, the other still in the nest.
They were busy exercising their wings...
Getting a feel for flapping... almost time to take off.
"I'm the king of the world!"
I noticed that Mama doesn't seem to be feeding them bugs anymore, mostly liquid.
Lot's of grooming.
"Oh y-e-a-h... scratch right there... ahhh... dude that feels good!"
Mama saw something on a branch that caught her attention. She was picking at it, then flew off.
Mom came back and started nipping at the chick's back end.
She was encouraging him to "Just Do It".
And sure enough...
Just a few minutes later...
He started flapping his wings...
He experienced his first airborne moment!
He flew up the branch about 6-8 inches and landed.
Then made his way back down to the nest and crawled in completely exhausted.
3.19.2013 24 days old
Today was departure day. I almost missed it! When I arrived, the older chick was already gone, didn't see him anywhere. The younger chick was still sitting on the nest. I set up the flash, as I moved the branch, he must have flown off. I turned around and the nest was vacant! Talk about an empty feeling, after all this not getting to see either of them leave. I was sad. But then...
Look who I saw sitting on a branch just above the nest!
Mama is still feeding him.
He kept licking each branch he landed on.
He flew to several different branches, further and further away.
I don't know how long the chicks are fed after they fledge.
He was now too far away. I realized that was it. I was done.
I packed up my gear and just sat there taking it all in.
I've heard that hummingbirds are messengers for the spirit world, bringing balance to nature and spirit. Maybe via a supernatural world wide web? I can't explain how I was able to find Mama's nest so quickly (or at all)! Upon arrival I was drawn straight to Mama, requiring me to walk right by a no trespassing gate, which I did without a second thought. Not something I usually do. I walked down the hill and kept walking until I hit the creek and could go no further. I immediately looked up and saw Mama pulling at spider webbing up near the top of a tree. I watched her gather the webbing for a few seconds, she then flew directly to her nest. I was stunned how quickly this played out.
Not two minutes later I heard my phone's email sound. I grabbed it wondering why was I bothering to check my email when I just found the perfect hummingbird nest. It was an email notifying me that my dear sweet Aunt Connie was dying, only days left. I was stunned again.
This hummingbird experience is dedicated to my beloved Aunt Connie 3.27.18 ~ 2.8.13
I am also dedicating this to my beautiful Aunt Mary, who sent me money to publish my first photography book. I've saved the money waiting for a subject worthy of being published. I look forward to sending my aunt the very first nest story book printed.
Canon 7D Camera
Canon 300mm F4L Lens
Canon 400mm F5.6L Lens
Canon Speedlite 580EXII Flash with PocketWizards
Manfrotto Monopod with Ball Head
Olympus EM-5 Mirrorless Camera with Flash Unit (close up photos and video)
Olympus 12-50mm Lens with Macro
This photographer would like to thank:
Carl Jackson ~ Thank you for the use of your gear, especially the mirrorless camera. And thank you for your ideas and suggestions. This labor of love would not be anywhere near what it is without you. Thank you so much!
Whoever owns the land I was trespassing on for not finding me down there (or not turning me in if you did).
And, most of all, a huge THANK YOU to Mama and her chicks for putting up with my invasion into their world.
Gallery Photos (larger viewing size): http://www.kimmichaels.com/HummingbirdNestStory